Menarche- a Journey into Womanhood

RachadminMenarche, Menstrual Health, Musings

Menarche- a Journey into Womanhood

Published in Juno Magazine issue 20, Spring 2010, and an excerpt from the book

 ‘Menarche a Journey into Womanhood’ by Rachael Hertogs.

Rites of passage have begun to reappear in our society as we recognise the importance of honouring our young people and guiding them gently into adulthood. Ceremonies, vision quests, men’s and women’s lodges, rite of passage courses, festivals and camps are becoming more and more popular!

I have been working with women and their daughters for many years supporting them in celebrating their rite of passage. For girls there is a clear signal that their journey into womanhood has begun- with the start of their periods. The first period is known as Menarche; tribal traditions have celebrated Menarche for thousands of years- some rituals including the whole tribe, others more private among close women friends and family, some quite extreme- including genital mutilation, cutting, scarring and tattooing, other more gentle – being fed, massaged and sung to.

I believe how a young woman is guided through this experience can affect her for the rest of her life! Ask your women friends how they celebrated their first period- sadly for the majority of women it was ignored, shamed, at best explained clinically and ‘gifts’ of huge pads (sometimes huge tampons!) often terrified young girls! The menstrual cycle is a crucial element in the balance of the body, mind, spirit connection for a woman; this needs to be taught from an early age so when her cycle begins (signs can begin as early as 1 year before her blood flow) she can feel proud and excited to begin her journey of power!

I eagerly anticipated my daughters Menarche- I’d been working for a number of years around menstruation and creating pretty cloth pads for the women on my courses and their friends.

My period had started when I was 11- but Tabitha was a different build to me; very petite, so I wasn’t expecting her to start as early as I had. But soon after her 12th birthday I began to notice a ‘cycle’ to her mood swings- even chocolate cravings for a few days each month! Other physical signs were night sweats for a couple of nights, slight cramps as she ovulated (which she presumed was a tummy ache), breaking out in spots….all the usual. She’d have a few days when she felt unattractive, hated all her clothes- they didn’t fit or look right! And she would cry at the slightest thing. After about 6 months of these ‘symptoms’ one morning she came in my room as she had bled in the night and her sheets needed changing and she needed cleaning up! She was happy to have finally started but eager to wash and change.

I ran her a bath with rose bath salts and a sprinkle of lavender oil, re-made her bed while she soaked and prepared her a hot water bottle. She had the day off school and I excitedly gave her a set of pads I had made and mentioned the celebration I had planned; we would invite our girl friends over, dress in red, have red foods and drinks, bless her with gifts, songs and create a special ceremony just for her!

Oh, the look on her face, “Oh no mum!” she really wasn’t up for it!

So I had to put my excitement, my plans, my expectations to one side and listen to what she wanted.

We celebrated quite traditionally; a meal out at her favourite restaurant with her best friend and a gift of a new pair of earrings!

For the next year or so she suffered from very heavy, painful periods- she was lucky that they were very regular from the start so we knew when it would come, but it concerned me that her flow was so heavy as she was still such a slight build of a woman- and vegetarian- so I worried about her iron levels and how draining this heavy loss was making her feel. She was flooding her disposable pads at school and was constantly worried about bleeding on to her clothes. Although she loved her cloth pads- and preferred them to disposables, even finding them better at absorbing her heavy flow- but she wasn’t yet confident enough to use them at school, so we opted for the organic cotton throwaways as a compromise.

We visited a naturopath who recommended a liver cleanse drink to take for a couple of months pre-menstrually. Amazingly this totally balanced her flow (I joined her in the cleanse and felt its positive effects- more energy, clear skin and my periods became lighter! Even now I continue to do the cleanse every 6 months or so.) And her period has been ‘normal’ ever since!

And much to my joy I eventually got my wish to celebrate Tabitha with my community of women when she was 15!

I had been taking part in the Menarche Ceremony preparation at Sacred Arts Camp for a couple of years- running workshops with the young women and their mothers who were taking part; teaching them about charting their cycle, making moon necklaces, decorating red and white candles…

This particular year Tabitha came to camp with her friend who was keen to take part…so Tabi agreed to join her, choosing my best friend Nicho to be her ‘Moon Mother’ and my husband Tom as her ‘Moon Father’.

What I love about this ceremony is that it is open to any woman who hadn’t been celebrated at her menarche- as well as all the girls who have recently begun to bleed.So ages of those taking part can be from 10-40! It also involves the men, the grandmothers, the very young girls- anyone who wants to join in can have a role.

All week women meet in my moon lodge tipi to co-create the ceremony – deciding what songs will be sung, what dances to dance, finding musicians, collecting red and white clothes for the women taking part, choosing who will take which role….

Meanwhile the young women choose a Moon Mother who will attend the ceremony with them holding their hand and reassuring them, bringing them a gift, helping them to get ready, they might share blood stories with them and as part of the ceremony they dream them a ‘moon name’ the night before the ritual.

Many Moon Mother/Moon Daughter relationships continue years after the ceremony- even though girls may choose a woman who they only see once a year at camp! They also choose a Moon Father – someone older who can be another ‘wise father figure’ in their life and who will also make them a crown of leaves and flowers for the ceremony! The Moon Fathers have a powerful role in the ritual- bringing in the male energy.

Other men of the community get involved; they will meet to prepare- perhaps creating a song for the ceremony as well as sharing stories with each other about men’s traditions and honouring women! Their part in the ceremony is to ‘guard’ the sacred ceremonial space by dressing as ‘warriors’ and walking around the outside perimeter whilst drumming and chanting.

Once the Moon Fathers enter (after being challenged by the ‘Grandmothers’ -menopausal women) all the men will join the ceremony.

The ritual begins with the decorating of the big top- draping it in whatever cloths and sheets we have, flowers are placed in vases and jars, an entrance is made from willow and flowers, (the entrance is guarded by the wise grandmothers who welcome the girls in) lighting candles and incense and raising the energy by singing and chanting while we decorate and smudge ourselves with white sage!

All the women dress up- white if you haven’t begun to bleed yet,red if you’re a bleeding woman and black/purple for the menopausal women- although some women prefer just to wear any ‘dressy up’ clothes they have brought!

While this is happening the young women get ready with their moon mums in the moon lodge, being anointed with sacred water and dressing in white with a white ribbon in their hair.

Each year the ceremony is slightly different, this year, watching my daughter take part- and also taking part myself as her best friends Moon Mother was an emotional time for me! I don’t recall too much as I spent the ceremony on ‘auto pilot’ through my tears!

Walking in to a big top filled with 200+ women singing is a powerful experience! They sang and danced for the girls and their Moon Mothers, and then we left to change the girls from white to red-as each one left the space they turned and called out their name symbolizing leaving their ‘girl- child’ part of them self behind.

While we helped them change in the moon lodge, the ceremony continued with the passing of the ‘Yoni Cushion’ as a talking stick – as it passed each woman they spoke 3 words to summarise their bleeding experience- words like ‘connected, pain, loss, renewal and even -I’m not pregnant’!

After that songs and chants are shared until the young women re-enter- dressed in beautiful red clothes. The singing continues in honour of them and then there is the ceremonial hair cutting- once again symbolising the letting go of their childhood- the hair with the white ribbon is cut away and they are anointed with a red ochre crescent moon on their forehead- to remind them of their moon connection and the rhythm and flow of the moon. They drank from the sacred goblet (blackcurrant juice!) and then the Moon Mothers step forward to bless them with gifts and their new ‘moon names’ are whispered to them.

Now is the time for the men to enter! The Grandmothers had been guarding the entrance the whole time and now step back to allow the men in- first they were challenged ‘Do you come in to this space with love and respect for your sisters?’ To which of course they answered yes!

The ‘Moon Fathers’ stepped forward and crowned their Moon Daughters, as the rest of the men sang their gift song they had composed.

In return- our gift to the men for protecting our space was to share with them a blood mystery story- told by one of our amazing storytellers.

After that the musicians played, joined by the drummers and it was time to celebrate and dance the evening away!!

The young women left with their Moon Mums to go back to the moon lodge and have chocolate cake and ground after the ritual. Later that night (it was a full moon) we had a women’s sweat lodge- the perfect ending to a wonderful day!

Tabitha told me afterwards that although she had been really nervous and unsure about taking part, she was really glad she did and loved how ‘special’ she had felt!

Tabitha has been such a joy to me- such an amazing young woman who has embraced supporting me in my work, she has challenged school friends, teachers and colleagues to look at their menstruation differently and use earth and body-friendly sanitary wear. She even accompanied me to the USA to attend the Red Web Conference in 2007!

Tabitha is now 21!

To find out more about Sacred Arts Camp see www.sacredartscamp.org

Liver cleanse:

Supporting the liver has amazing results with menstrual problems!

Below is a Liver Tonic drink:

1 tablespoon Olive Oil

Juice of ½ lemon

1 clove of garlic

1 glass of Apple juice

1/8th inch of Ginger

Blend and drink each morning for 3 days, then reduce to 1 morning a week until menstruation.  Avoid dairy products pre-menstrually.

The health and vitality of every organ, gland, and cell are dependent upon the liver. Even our intelligence, attitudes, emotions and vitality are largely related to the liver. Our ability to repel disease or recover from disease is very much associated with this incredible organ. The liver, along with the heart and brain, are the most important organs in our bodies. However, even the heart and the brain are dependent on the liver. No one can be healthy without a strong, clean liver.

 

© 2008 Rachael Hertogs, All Rights Reserved

[guest letter] Letter to Proctor and Gamble

RachadminGuest Writings, Menstrual Health

This is an actual letter from an Austin, Texas woman sent to Proctor and
Gamble regarding one of their feminine products. She really gets Rolling
after the first paragraph. This was PC Magazine’s 2007 Editors’
Choice award-winner for the best letter sent via e-mail.

Dear Mr. Thatcher,

I have been a loyal user of your ‘Always’ maxi pads for Over 20 years
and I appreciate many of their features. Why, without the LeakGuard Core
or Dri-Weave absorbency, I’d probably never go horseback riding or salsa
dancing, and I’d certainly steer clear of running up and down the beach
in tight, white shorts.
But my favorite feature has to be your revolutionary Flexi-Wings. Kudos
on being the only company smart enough to realize how crucial it is that
maxi pads be aerodynamic. I can’t tell you how safe and secure I feel
each month knowing there’s a little F-16 in my pants.

Have you ever had a menstrual period, Mr. Thatcher? I’m guessing you
haven’t. Well, my time of the month is starting right now. As I type, I
can already feel hormonal forces violently surging through my body.
Just a few minutes from now, my body will adjust and I’ll be transformed
into what my husband likes to call ‘an inbred hillbilly with knife
skills.’

Isn’t the human body amazing?

As Brand Manager in the Feminine-Hygiene Division, you’ve no doubt seen
quite a bit of research on what exactly happens during your customers’
monthly visits from ‘Aunt Flo’. Therefore, you must know about the
bloating, puffiness, and cramping we endure, and about our Intense mood
swings, crying jags, and out-of-control behavior. You surely realize
it’s a tough time for most women.

The point is, sir, you of all people must realize that America is just
crawling with homicidal maniacs in Capri pants… Which brings me to the
reason for my letter. Last month, while in the throes of cramping so
painful I wanted to reach inside my body and yank out my uterus, I
opened an Always maxi-pad, and there, printed on the adhesive backing,
were these words: ‘Have a Happy Period.’

Are you f—— kidding me? What I mean is, does any part of your tiny
middle-manager brain really think happiness – actual smiling, laughing
happiness, is possible during a menstrual period? Did anything mentioned
above sound the least bit pleasurable? Well, did it, James?
FYI, unless you’re some kind of sick S&M freak, there will never be
anything ‘happy’ about a day in which you have to jack yourself up on
Motrin and Kahlua and lock yourself in your house just so you don’t
march down to the local Walgreen’s armed with a hunting rifle and a
sketchy plan to end your life in a blaze of glory.

For the love of God, pull your head out, man! If you have to slap a
moronic message on a maxi pad, wouldn’t it make more sense to say
something that’s actually pertinent, like ‘Put down the Hammer’ or
‘Vehicular Manslaughter is Wrong’.

Sir, please inform your Accounting Department that, effective
immediately, there will be an $8 drop in monthly profits, for I have
chosen to take my maxi-pad business elsewhere. And though I will
certainly miss your Flex-Wings, I will not for one minute miss your
brand of condescending bullshit. And that’s a promise I will keep.

Always. . ..

Wendi Aarons
Austin , TX

[guest blog] Be Creative with your Cycle by Dominique Sakoilsky

RachadminGuest Writings, Menarche, Menstrual Health, Moon Lodge/Red Tent, Musings

This article is published in ‘Menarche a Journey into Womanhood’ by Rachael Hertogs.
Be Creative with your Cycle by Dominique Sakoilsky

Our bleeding time is a time to turn inwards- its nice to have a special place to go (this is where the tribal moon lodges came from)…here’s some ideas for you! Give yourself a space, especially for your bleeding time, where you can be comfortable, relax, turn inwards and connect to yourself and the earth.

Some ideas to create a space for moon time:
Cushions, pillows, blankets.
Tarot cards, runes.
Pencils, paints, pens, paper – to make notes, pictures, poems, dreams.
A drum.
Goddess figures.
Special shells, stones, crystals.
Candles, incense and smudge stick (sage for cleansing & protecting, sweet grass for spirit and mugwort for visions.)
Oil burner (chamomile and lavender essential oils to relax.)
Massage oil.
Don’t over clutter your space or make yourself feel over stimulated, bleeding time is a time of reflection and inner connectedness which flows out to connect all around.
Often, making things helps to still the mind and help us deeper in to the wisdom of our bodies.
Dream pillows stuffed with lavender flowers and mugwort, decorated especially by you makes a beautiful bleeding time gift to yourself, or making a prayer stick: choose a stick that appeals to you and wrap threads of different colours and textures all around it, add other decorations, such as beads, crystals- anything that feels right. Smudging and chanting while you work will help open your heart and put healing intent and prayers into your stick. You could keep all your sticks from each month and burn them together in a ritual to release your prayers or burn it each time you make one.
Threading a necklace; putting healing and sacred energy in to it, connecting to your cycling nature when you wear it. Choose beads that relate to your different cycle phases and the moons cycle.
Touch your menstrual blood or paint with it, how does that feel? Does it bring up feelings of how you relate to your blood, the way it looks, feels, smells?

All these suggestions can help you open the doorway to your intuition and enter your Dream Time.

 

Dominique is now a Director at Relaxed Birth and Parenting www.relaxedbirthandparenting.com

Menarche in Schools

RachadminMenstrual Health, Moon Lodge/Red Tent, Musings

Menarche Work in Primary Schools (written 2005)
Imagine a school that embraced Celebrating Menarche- a school that invited mothers of young girls to come and talk openly about the changes women face in puberty, to honour their daughters rite of passage and explore their own journey with their moon flow, a school that promoted eco sanitary wear and allowed their students to wear their moon necklaces with pride!
This has been a vision of mine for many years and the vision has begun to manifest!
In 2005 I was invited to run a Celebrating Menarche Workshop at a local primary school! Initially the idea was for me to come to school and talk to the young women about menstruation, sanitary wear and celebrating their menarche- but I had other ideas! I insisted that the mothers be involved- after all, what is the point of honouring a girl’s menstruation if she was going home to a family that held it as taboo? I knew that for girls to truly honour their cycle they need the support of their mothers, and of course many mothers don’t know the secrets our bleeding time holds- so I had to be able to address these issues; support the mothers to support their daughters!I discussed this with the school and they agreed, deciding it would be best to tie the workshop in with their sex education classes. So we planned to run the workshop one evening in November.
Five mothers and their daughters arrived at the school and were amazed at the transformation of one of the class rooms- we had moved back the tables and chairs, I cleared the energies of the room using Reiki symbols, scattered the floor with furry beanbags and soft red velvet cushions. I created an altar in the middle; spreading a red glittery cloth on the floor, lighting candles and incense, adding my goddess figures, some crystals, shells, precious beads and stones, flowers, pictures, water collected from all the ceremonies and altars I have made and lastly I sprinkled it with chocolate and glitter! The atmosphere was completely changed!Playing in the background was my “women’s workshops” CD- a mix of inspirational female musicians- from Peru to Sinead O’Connor, Madonna to Carolyn Hillyer, and so the evening began.

Initially I could sense the apprehension from both the girls and their mothers- for some of them they were stepping in to a mystery they had no comprehension of, but they were courageous and willing and I honoured them for that. We began with a reading of quotes I had gathered from books and women I have met- describing their menarche, we each took a turn to speak a little about ourselves (I learned that the ages ranged from 7-10 years old and one of the mothers shared that she was menstruating that evening!) and went over the ground rules for the group. The rest of the evening was spent sharing some chamomile and rose tea, listening to a menarche story, having hand massages, discussions, making moon necklaces (one to represent our bleeding time and one for ovulation), we looked at choices in sanitary products and had an opportunity to browse my collection of ‘Menstruation Literature’ that travels with me from women’s group to women’s group, moon lodge to moon lodge!
The evening flew by and everyone wished for more time, remarks from mums and daughters were “what gentleness”, “a great idea for girls and women!” “It was better that we expected- we really enjoyed it” “Reminded me my cycle is something to celebrate” “a wonderful chance to be close and focus on our relationship”, “my daughter was very apprehensive but soon relaxed”, “I liked the shrine, the sweets, tea, bead making, massage, being in a circle, the massage oil and the incense!” “Thank you very very much” “how do we get more women doing this?”
The evening felt like an enormous break through for my menarche work- and I trust that this ripple will spread …..to goddess knows where!

© 2005 Rachael Hertogs, All Rights Reserved

Celebrating your First Moon

RachadminMenarche, Menstrual Health, Moon Lodge/Red Tent, Musings

Celebrating your First Moon (an exerpt from Thirteen Moons and Menarche ‘a journey into womanhood’ – both available here )

The word ‘celebrate’ comes from an ancient Greek word ‘melpo’ which means to sing, dance and praise!

There are many ways to celebrate your first blood- here are a few suggestions-

• Have a RED PARTY! Invite your friends and all dress in red, decorate your home with red flowers, red cloths and eat red foods!
• Have a ‘pamper party’ with your girlfriends, give each other facials, paint your toe nails, braid one another’s hair- create a special girlie space to share your stories and perhaps read some of the ones in this book. Light a candle and share chocolate!
• Create a ceremony – ask your mum and friends to help.
• Talk to your mum about the steps to becoming a woman- is there something you’d like to help you to feel more grown up- to get your ears pierced, have your hair henna’d, or maybe redecorate your room? Chat some ideas over with your mum.
• Make yourself a moon necklace or moon belt that you only wear when you bleed.
• Create a special corner in your room for when you bleed- decorate it with pictures, crystals, stones, shells, goddess statues, candles, incense…
• Ask your mum to buy you some red bedding- soft red sheets to curl up in at your moon time!
• Write a letter to yourself- from your ‘young woman’ self to your ‘child girl’ self, honour her for being courageous to be taking these steps in to womanhood with you! Keep this letter safe and read it now and again.
• Start a women’s circle- gather your girlfriends together once a month- on the full moon or dark moon and have a pamper party, or watch a dvd, listen to music or together create items for your altars or make moon jewellery!

© 2006 Rachael Hertogs, All Rights Reserved

Workshops

RachadminMenarche, Menstrual Health, Moon Lodge/Red Tent

The Power of Menstruation Course

A space for women to explore feelings about their cycle, to reconnect, share and heal. The course will run over 8 weeks and will cover;

* Charting your cycle
* Making a menstrual medicine belt
* Natural remedies
* Chanting
* Visualisations
* Journaling
* Body consciousness
* Healing
* Ceremony

This course is run on a request only basis. Contact us for further information The cost will be £150 for the weekly course (this includes materials, weekly room hire, information sheets and herbal remedy/teas)

Soon to be avaliable as a correspondance course! Contact me if you are interested hello@moontimes.co.uk

Celebrating Menarche- A Journey into Womanhood

A wonderful opportunity for mums and daughters (aged 8-13) to spend some special time together!

Every Woman is a Daughter

‘The mother-daughter relationship is at the headwaters of every woman’s health. Our bodies, our beliefs about them were formed in the soil of our mothers emotions, beliefs and behaviours’ Dr Christiane Northrup

Join us as we explore and honour our daughters rites of passage. Learn about embracing our moontime, share stories, play, create and celebrate together! Collectively we will discover what has affected our attitudes towards our moontime and our bodies and we will remember and recreate our own menarche celebration.

This is the perfect workshop to book for a group of friends and their mums!

Contact us for further information

Moon Times on Blogs and in the News!

RachadminGuest Writings, Musings

Read about Moon Times on peoples Blogs:
One Green Earth
Womens Quest
Viva City Radio
My Zero Waste
Les Furies
still raising the next generation
Recycle This
selfconscious posturing
Questing Girl
Self Sufficientish
Living Ethically
Dreaming Aloud

Moon Times in The News!

Award from Aspire magazine:

The Spark Magazine:

The Source Magazine:

Sugar Magazine:

Bristol Evening Post:

Women who Make a Difference Award:Organic Life Magazine:

 

Red Tent Day

RachadminMenstrual Health, Moon Lodge/Red Tent

Calling all women young and old!

Red Tent Day

Sunday 4th May 11-4pm drop in any time

Boiling Wells Project, St Werburghs

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Why have a red tent day? To create a sense of fun around menstruation, to encourage women to take charge of their menstrual and reproductive health, to create greater visibility of menstruation, to enhance honesty about menstruation in our relationships…

Join us as we connect with women world wide who are putting up red tents and moon lodges to honour our womanhood and our cycles and access support in healthy choices around contraception, bleeding and birth.

Bring books, altar items, candles, herb teas, food to share, wear red! There will be a red tent/moon lodge space to sit, be, talk, ask questions, share stories….the day will end with a simple ceremony.

Some therapies will be happening in the barn (for a small donation) and we will be joined in the Red Tent by some Women’s Health Advocates; Nicho Wooding trainee midwife, Anita Bennet– intelligent contraception and infertility, Dominique Sakoilsky– menstruation and birth, Angela Bosanquet local herbalist

 

Celebrating as part of ‘Menstrual Monday’…an initiative started a few years ago in the US. Hosted by Rachael Hertogs, creator of Moon Times washable pads and facilitator of Wise Women’s Workshops.

for more information , to help out or offer therapies contact Rachael info@rachaelhertogs.co.uk

For info on Moon Times Pads see www.moontimes.co.uk

Red Tent Day Programme of events:

Sunday 4th May 11-4pm

11 am decorating the moon lodge

 

12pm joined by Nicho Woodingtrainee midwife  offering a space to share about choices about ante natal care in the NHS

12pm herb walk with Angela Bosanquet- local herbalist

1pm joined by Anita Bennet-offering a space to share about intelligent contraception and infertility

2pm joined by Dominique Sakoilsky offering a space to share about menstruation and birth

3pm quiet time in the Red Tent

3.45pm closing ceremony

Therapies will be happening throughout the day in the barn

 

Suggested donation of £5 for tasters and £10 for half hour treatments

 

Alexander Technique, Aromatherapy, Reflexology, Massage, Healthy Eating and more…